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Berditchev rebbe learns value of persistence

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SAN DIEGO–Although the Torah records many details of the lives of Abraham and Jacob, not much is known about Isaac. Isaac seems to be a transitional figure whose exploits largely duplicate those of his father, Abraham.

In Genesis 26:17, we learn that Isaac “dug anew the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death; and he gave them the same names his father had given them.”

Isaac’s servants then went on to dig two more wells. The water from each, however, was claimed by local tribesmen. Finally, they dug a third well and it was not disputed. Isaac “called it [the well] Rehoboth, saying, ‘Now at last the Lord has granted us ample space to increase in the land.” (Genesis 26:22)

Rabbi Simcha Raz says that we can learn an important lesson from this episode. Although Isaac dug two wells that were taken away from him, he did not give up looking for water. He continued digging until he succeeded in claiming his own well.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev once set off on a trip through nearby villages to collect tzedakah to rescue captive Jews. He traveled from place to place without success. He became discouraged and decided: “I have set aside my study and prayer time for nothing. I would be better off going home and studying and davening.”

He was about to turn around when someone told him about a Jew who had been caught breaking into a home and was arrested and thrown in jail.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak visited the thief in prison. “My son,” he said to him, “Look what you have accomplished for all of your work! Absolutely nothing. Remember this and don’t ever steal again.”

The thief was recalcitrant. “Rabbi,” he said. “I’ll think about it, but I’m not really worried about my failures. Even if I didn’t succeed this time, next time I will!”

The thief’s answer inspired Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. As he left the jail he thought to himself: “If this sinner is not worried about his failed attempt at illicit gain and plans to steal again, how much more should I not allow my failures to slow me down as I try to do a mitzvah!”

With that, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak set off on the road again until he collected enough money to fulfill his mission.
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Rabbi Rosenthal is the spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego

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Written by sandiegojewishworld

November 20, 2009 at 10:43 pm

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